Contributing to Open-Source: Insights On the Latest Major WordPress Release
Plenty of work happens behind the scenes of a regular website. But even more work is needed for the maintenance and development of a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress – the software that powers 34% of all websites on the web. New WordPress versions are released regularly to provide new functionality, security improvements, and all types of fixes. In the case of WordPress, which is an open-source software, a big part of the work is thanks to the voluntary support of dedicated individuals and companies within the WordPress community.
The team at SiteGround has a long history of WordPress involvement – we organize and sponsor both local and worldwide WordCamps, work on WordPress core and plugins, and are active on the WP.org security, community, marketing, and hosting teams. So we were stoked when our WordPress community manager, Francesca Marano was selected as a Release Coordinator for the latest major version, WordPress 5.3. On the verge of the official release, 12 weeks after she took upon that role, here is our chat with Francesca about her role and responsibilities in the process, and of course – what you can look forward to with the new release.
What does a WordPress Release Coordinator actually do, and how does one end up in this role?
Francesca: For a while, the WordPress Core team (the dev team which builds WordPress) wanted to get more non-developer or non-technical people involved in the release. As a WordPress Community Manager at SiteGround, I dedicate most of my working hours to the people and users of WordPress, and I am very passionate about offering support, and helping out however I can. So when WordPress.org Executive Director Josepha Haden Chomphosy asked me if I was willing to coordinate the next major release, I said yes!
The role of Release Coordinator is a non-technical project management one. I make sure that we meet our deadlines, keep an eye on all the moving parts (and there are a lot of them!), and talk to the focus leads to see that we are on track with the goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the road. Up until the release of WordPress 5.0, the release had just two or three people involved, but the project now has a big team, and everyone has different tasks, so it’s crucial to have someone like me to make sure it all works in synch.
So, how does a new version of WordPress get made and released?
Francesca: There are quite a few steps to get a product ready to release. The release cycle starts with a call for tickets and features. People submit items they think should go into the next WordPress version. The suggestions get summarised and checked against the actual capabilities of the different teams involved, and then a scope and schedule are set.
After that, the work begins: the goal of the first phase, or Beta phase, is to have no bugs in the queue. There are weekly “bug-scrubs” where the Triage project manager (in this case, the excellent David Baumwald) leads a group of people to work on selected bugs.
Then, we move to the Release Candidate. At this stage, WordPress should be ready to be released. No new features get added. Testing might have revealed some problems, so these are the only issues that get addressed at this point. Anything new goes into the next release.
When all the features are completed, and the bugs are addressed, WordPress gets released to millions of people! It sounds simple, but there are lots of technicalities and people involved along the way, so it’s great that the team thought about having just one person dedicated to keeping it all intact. It’s also a huge responsibility!